Oh, come on, Xander protested. Theres got to be something.
No, Im sorry, thats all Ive found so far, Giles said, shaking his head. The single reference to the Tooth of Ryla mentions it as a prize seized in battle by Andreas the Black in 862 A.D. And that was in what would now be Austria. I cant find any description of it, nor any mention of it before or since, nor any reference to this Crimson Tiger
Thats not it, Spike growled. Its the Tiger in Red.
Pardon me, Tiger in Red, Giles said patiently. Really, Spike, if you could give me a little more information about the source of these enigmatic statements, or a bit more context to the remarks, perhaps I might be able to deduce some cross-references . . .
Spike considered, then shrugged.
Old friend named Leng Chi, he said. Hes a
Risza demon? Giles said, his jaw dropping. Leng Chi, did you say? My God, do you know theres mention of him in the first Watcher chronicles, the very first ones? Dear God, what can he be doing here in Sunnydale? Is it the Hellmouth? Hes written to be a powerful sorcerer. Are you certain hes not the one who
Look Spike cleared his throat awkwardly, wondering what can of worms hed opened now. Leng Chi isnt your problem. Hes old and tired and no threat to anybody. That was an out-and-out lie; Spike had no doubt that even on his deathbed, Leng Chi would be more than a match for any or all of the Scooby Gang, on the magical front at least, if not physically. And whatever he says, you can count on it being worth listening to. That much at least was true. Leng Chi loved his games and riddles, or maybe his visions simply were that vague, as Drus had often been, but they were always worth taking seriously.
Giles gazed at Spike skeptically.
And you dont think this Risza demon might wish to . . . er . . . disinform us? For his own purposes?
You, yeah, he said. Me, no. He owes me big. So where do we check next, the Watchers Council?
Giles shook his head, sighing.
Remember, I no longer have any standing with them, he said ruefully. Thats cost me a good deal of my information resources.
Thats what I was afraid of, he said ruefully. Well, only one thing for it, then.
What, consult another demon? Xander said, looking unhappy.
Worse, Spike said, shuddering.
What could be worse? Xander asked worriedly. Then his eyebrows jumped. Oh, no you dont mean you cant mean
Spike nodded dismally.
Fraid so, Pet, he said.
What? Giles said blankly. Or should I say who?
Angel, Spike and Xander said together.
Giles eyebrows shot up.
And why, pray, is asking Angels help so terrible?
Spike rolled his eyes.
Oh, theres just the little matter that last time he saw me, I was sticking hot pokers through him, trying to get him to give me the Gem of Amara, Spike said sarcastically. But Im sure he wont hold a little thing like that against me.
Oh, dear, Giles said unhappily. I remember now. Perhaps it would be best if I contacted Angel?
Nah. Spike shrugged fatalistically. Id have had to work our little spat with him out again sooner or later. Guess I might as well get it over with.
Get what over with? Buffys voice came from the doorway. Me staking you?
No, luv, studying up so I can beat your English Lit scores, Spike said smoothly. Hard cheese, but Ill manage, seeing as Ive at least read some books without pictures.
Buffy flushed and Spike smirked to himself vampiric hearing could be fun, especially when listening to the Slayer moan to Willow about her grades.
Hey, maybe I should delve more deeply into English poetry, Buffy sneered. Why dont you show us some of yours? Im sure we could all use a good laugh.
Spike kept his expression composed with difficulty. Damn, he wished hed never told Buffy that bit about Cecily and his horrible poems. It was one of the few memories of his mortal life that still had the power to hurt him. Desperately he flailed for a witty comeback.
Yeah, Im sure that would be pretty entertaining, Xander said, to Spikes astonishment. But youve got Spike beat on the amusement front, hands down, with that poem you wrote to Angel. Lets see, how did it start? Fallen Angel, where do I begin? I long to feel your lips upon my skin
Buffy went pale.
How did you know about that? she whispered, her fists clenched.
Oh, cmon, Buffy, Xander said, rolling his eyes. Who was the smitten schmuck who always picked up your notebooks and papers when you threw them down to battle the demon du jour? Good ol donut boy Xander Harris. I Xeroxed that one, too it was sooooooo cute, with all those little hearts in the margins. I bet Angel would just love to see it. And what a coincidence, just so happens were going to have a little chat with Deadboy himself.
Xander, why are you acting like Buffy began, angry and bewildered, then stiffened. Angel? Hes coming here?
We dont know that yet, Giles interjected quickly. We merely need to consult with him on some information that Spike uncovered. Perhaps a phone call would
Bugger that, Spike growled. Im going there.
We are? Xander said, surprised, then hurriedly modified, I mean, you are?
Whats this we stuff? Buffy said, raising her eyebrows.
Well, hows he going to get to LA? Xander returned, flushing. Would you let him borrow your car and take off with it? I think not.
He can take the bus, Buffy suggested helpfully. How about the nine a.m. bus? All those nice windows.
To what do we owe the pleasure of your company anyway, Pet? Spike asked as politely as he could manage. Hed called ahead and set up the meeting with Giles at the Magic Box specifically tonight to avoid the blonde, who supposedly had an evening tutoring session with Willow and Tara. To work on the aforementioned English Lit grades.
Not that you care, seeing that you and Xander dont give a damn whether the rest of us live or die these days, and for your information were getting beat up a lot lately, Buffy retorted, but Willow thinks she and Tara can do a kind of tracking spell. So the next time we run into some nasties that we think came out of a portal, we can track them back to where they came through, and hopefully find out more. Except that Willows magic isnt exactly up to par lately, and she has to redo her spell, so she needed a few refills. She handed Giles a list.
Thats not fair, Xander protested hotly. Spike and I have been patrolling almost every single night, just not with you.
Yeah, and whats with that, Xander? Buffy returned. Now youd rather hang around with the Fangless Wonder than us?
Not us, Xander retorted. Just you. At least Spike only beats up on unhelpful nasties, not Scoobies.
Buffy flushed and glanced away.
I didnt mean to hit you, she said, her voice suddenly subdued. You know that, Xan. She looked at him again, almost pleadingly. Dont you?
Yeah, I know, Xander said, softening slightly. But beating on Spike isnt any better, not when he cant even defend himself. You guys want to trade insults all the time, fine, thats relatively harmless and even kind of entertaining. But this I cant wait till youre dust and Id love to help you get there thing coming from you all the times getting old, Buff, especially since Spikes going out every night and risking his life or whatever youd call it to make us safer. Even saving our lives sometimes even yours. I mean, Im sure Spike really would probably kill you if he could, but at least he doesnt go around saying it constantly, and its kind of bad when an evil soulless vampires more polite than you are, okay?
Buffys lips tightened and she turned away dismissively, walking off to join Giles, who had prudently withdrawn to pull jars from the shelves.
Spike swallowed, impressed and a little disturbed by Xanders semi-public defense. It galled him plenty that he couldnt do anything material about the Slayers constant threats, barbs, and outright assaults, and he knew it bothered Xander too hence the Kevlar vest that Spike was wearing even now but hed never really realized how offended Xander had gotten on his behalf. Or that plain old mortal Xander Waitaminnit, didnt Leng Chi say something about him having a gift? A powerful one? And hes not just plain old mortal Xander anymore; hes had some of my blood almost every day, and at least I can tell would stand up to the Slayer to defend Spikes honor, so to speak.
And verbally, at least, beaten the Slayer to a standstill.
Looks like our exit cue, Pet, he said aloud.
Guess so, Xander said, scowling. Tomorrows Friday, we can leave at sunset, okay?
Yes, of course, Giles said, walking back over. Shall I call Angel and tell him youre coming?
Suppose youd better, he said grudgingly. Dont know whether itll give him time to calm down or get madder. Oh, and do me a favor? Book us a nice room somewhere, wont you? Someplace with a refrigerator, preferably in a basement. Wouldnt want to rely on the Broody Ones hospitality.
Yes, Ill do that, Giles said, troubled. You dont suppose hes angry enough to well
Spike grimaced. He couldnt explain it to Giles; he frankly doubted that a mortal could understand. It would take a lot more than a few pokers shoved through him to make Angel stake his Childe, just as Spike hadnt really been trying to destroy Angel at the time. Killing ones Sire or Childe was what a vampire did when the choice came down to stake or be staked. All right, Angel had a soul, and that changed the equation hed staked Darla, true. So in that sense hed have less inhibition against staking Spike. At the same time, that very soul would make it harder for Angel to contemplate staking Spike when Spike was chipped and harmless, at least to humans. Additionally, Spike had a particularly potent advantage over Angel Angels guilt. They both remembered how Angelus had treated Spike, and Spike knew Angel had probably been tearing himself up over it ever since hed gotten his soul back.
On a purely physical standpoint, Spike honestly didnt know how hed fare against Angel. Angel was older and theoretically stronger. On the other hand, Angel had been underfeeding and living on animal blood for a long time now, while Spike was dining fairly abundantly on demon, vampire and even human blood, usually with a chaser of fresh Eau de Xander. Spike figured he stood a pretty fair chance against Angel now, if it came to that.
Hes probably pissed enough, Spike said, shrugging. But e wont do it. And once I tell him whats happening here, hell have other things on is mind.
He hoped he was right. He was actually more worried about Angels sidekicks. This fellow Gunn hadnt been around at the time, nor had Wesley, but Cordelia had, and if the bleedin prom queen came at him with a stake, there wasnt much he could do but turn tail and run. He personally planned to keep Xanders Kevlar vest on all the time, and never once turn his back on that one. He privately thought Cordy could probably give Buffy a good run for the Bitch of the Year award.
Giles gave Spike a skeptical look, but nodded.
Why dont the two of you sit down for a moment, he suggested. Ill get Buffy what Willow needs and send her on her way, call Angel, and then pull a couple of books Id like to send with you.
Xander was still glaring at Buffy. Spike laid a hand on his shoulder and firmly guided the mortal over to the table.
Sit, he said.
Xander sat then shuddered. Spike frowned, raising an eyebrow enquiringly. Xander unaccountably blushed and looked away.
Awright, whats up now?
Spike inspected his lover more closely. Xanders eyes were dilated, his palms were sweaty, and he smelled of arousal. Yup, definite arousal. Spike was flattered he very much doubted the arousal was directed at either Buffy or Giles but rather puzzled. Then Xander shifted slightly in the chair, and something about the pattern of his movements gave Spike the clue. And a bolt of pure desire that shot straight to his groin.
He sniffed again, concentrating harder this time. Yes, there it was, the scent of silicone and lubricant.
Bloody ell, Spike whispered, amazed and aroused. You mean to tell me youre wearing that plug? Now?
Xander went a positively alarming shade of red.
Actually, he barely whispered, no, I didnt mean to tell you.
What the bloody ell did you wear it here for? Spike whispered.
Xander looked everywhere, everywhere except at Spike.
I didnt know we were coming here, Xander whispered back. When I changed clothes after work, I thought we were just going to get a sandwich and then go home again. You didnt tell me we were coming here until we got in the car.
So what? Spike whispered disbelievingly. Made more sense to go to a restaurant with a sex toy up your arse?
No! Xander said, then hurriedly lowered his voice. No. I mean I mean He swallowed. I thought maybe if I wore it for a while ahead of time, you know, when we got home and went to bed, maybe Id be stretched out enough that we could you could
Oh, hell, Xander, Spike murmured, amazed and touched. Things had been progressing nicely in the bedroom. Xander had moved up from the first slender plug to a slightly thicker one, but he was nowhere near ready for fucking. Moreover, just to be safe, most of the time Xander put in the plug himself, just in case it hurt. Although so far, theyd both been careful enough that it hadnt.
Sorry, luv, thats not the way it works, Spike whispered. Isnt a matter of stretching, its all about relaxing. And youre not ready yet, its that simple.
But I want to, Xander protested almost silently.
Yeah, I can tell, he smirked. He glanced over, saw Giles talking to Buffy more like arguing, from the look of it. He stood quickly, pulling Xander to his feet and steering him around behind a bookcase. He pushed Xander firmly back against the bookcase, crowding up against him, sealing his lips to the mortals for a long kiss before he pulled back far enough to speak.
Youre a naughty bit, arent you, he whispered, loving the heat in Xanders eyes. He slid his hand around to Xanders arse, his fingers trailing down the back seam of Xanders jeans. Coming here like that, smelling all hot and bothered, teasing me half out of my wits. He rubbed firmly, pressing against the base of the plug, and Xander gasped; Spike muffled Xanders moans with his own mouth.
You know what Im gonna do to you when I get you home? Spike murmured hotly in Xanders ear. Im gonna sit you down in the rocking chair, unzip those jeans and pull out your cock and lube it up. Know what Im gonna do then?
N-n-no, Xander whimpered as Spike continued to rub the base of the plug, moving it inside him.
Im gonna climb aboard and ride you like a fucking rocking horse, Spike whispered, rubbing his groin against Xanders as he manipulated the plug. Gonna ride you long and hard until youre begging to come. And every time I sink down on your cock, that plugs going to push up inside you. And all the time youre fucking me, youre going to feel it fucking you, and youll think about what Im going to feel like someday, thrusting deep inside you.
Oh, God, Xander whimpered, and Spike claimed his lips just in time as Xander gave a hoarse moan and came, shoving his hard cock brutally against Spikes equally hard erection. Spike chuckled softly and held Xander up, caressing him gently through the last tremors of his climax. He licked the sweat from the side of Xanders throat, relishing the taste of him.
Shiiiiiiiiiit, Xander breathed shakily. God, Spike, I dont believe you did that to me.
Guess youre gonna have to wait in the car, luv, Spike chuckled. He glanced around the corner; Buffy was still arguing with Giles. Go on, you can slip out now, before Her Buffyness sees you with wet jeans.
Im gonna get you for this, Xander murmured, blushing, but he darted quickly out the door.
Bet on it, Pet.
Sighing resignedly and adjusting himself inside his trousers, Spike walked back to the table to wait.
Mmmmmmm. Xander rolled over, curling into Spikes cool body, resting his head on Spikes shoulder. That was wild.
Spike smirked. The rocking chair had been a damned good idea. Theyd barely managed to stagger to the bed afterward. If hed been mortal, he wouldnt be sitting for a week. As matters stood, he could still feel a delicious soreness when he clenched his buttocks, although that would be gone in no time.
Was, wasnt it? he said, vastly pleased with himself.
There was a long moment of silence.
Spike? Xander whispered in the darkness.
I love you.
Spikes eyes jolted open, staring up at the ceiling. He didnt move.
Spike? The whisper was hesitant now, downright fearful.
Oh, bloody hell. Spike gave in. He couldnt even remember why hed been fighting it.
Yeah, I do, he whispered back.
You do what?
Spike rolled his eyes.
You do? Really?
Never took a Consort before, he said briefly. Tells you something, dont it?
A long silence this time. Xander propped himself up on one elbow and turned on the light. Spike blinked, dazed by the sudden brightness.
But Im not your Consort, he said quietly. Not really.
Spike shrugged resignedly.
Sorry, Pet, he said. If I could, I would. You know that.
Xander rolled over on his back, staring at the ceiling for a long moment
Spike? he said at last. If you could get rid of the chip, what would you do?
Spike sighed again.
What dyou mean, Pet?
Would you still Xander swallowed. Would you still want me? As your Consort, I mean?
Pet, the bloody chips got nothing to do with that, he said. Yeah, of course Id still want you as my Consort. More than ever.
Another long silence.
Would you still want to, you know, hurt Buffy?
Pet, hurt is too nice a word for what Id do to Buffy.
Oh. Xander took a deep breath. What about the rest of them?
Oh, I wouldnt mind force-feeding Rupert a few bags of pigs blood, Spike said idly, folding his hands behind his head. Hes been relatively decent lately, though. Id probably leave it at that. Dawns not worth the trouble. Wouldnt hurt the witches, if thats what youre wondering.
It wouldnt work that way, though, Xander said. He rolled on his side again, gazing into Spikes eyes seriously. I mean, say you killed Buffy and started killing humans for food again. Then the others Willow and Tara and Dawn and Giles, and probably Angel and his people too would come after you. Theyd have to. How could you keep from killing Willow and Tara then? Unless you left town.
Dont know, he said. Guess Id have to stay out of their way.
What about me? Xander pressed. My friends would be hunting the man I love. And Id have to try to keep on loving you, knowing youre killing innocent people. How am I supposed to live with that?
Spike shrugged again, uncomfortably. He hadnt thought that far ahead. It was all theoretical anyway.
Never thought about it, he said briefly. You know, Pet, it is a vampire youre cuddled up to here. Evil, soulless, all that good stuff. Kind of a package deal.
What if Xander took a deep breath; to Spikes amazement, the mortal was trembling hard. Hell, this is really eating at him! What if you just went on as if the chip was still there. I mean, Buffy and the others would never know that you were dangerous, so there wouldnt be any problem. You still couldnt hunt humans for food, except the way youve been, um, getting leftovers, but at least youd know you could defend yourself. That you could if you had to. And maybe maybe for my sake Xander swallowed again. Maybe you could, like, limit yourself to killing in self-defense and, like, evil people. Like, only ones I could live with myself if you killed.
Not kill? Even if he could? It made no sense. He was a vampire. He killed for food, he killed for power, he killed because he bloody well felt like it. Master vampires did as they chose.
On the other hand, he could choose to please his Consort. He had no delusions of keeping Xanders love if he went back to his pre-chip antics. Either Xander would leave him, or stake him however much it would hurt him to do so or tear that beautiful pure soul to bits trying to reconcile the man he loved (and didnt that thought make Spike feel happy and amazed and scared positively shitless all at the same time?) with the vampire he would come to hate. And Xander would probably hate himself a little more with each kill he didnt prevent.
And would it cost him so much to indulge his Consort? Humans lived such bloody short lives, it wouldnt inconvenience him for all that long and he found he hated that thought even more than the idea of such restraint. But there were only two outcomes, werent they? Xander could live a long, long time with regular infusions of Spikes blood, but that was still only postponing the inevitable. Someday either Spike would turn him, or Xander would die.
It was a fair question Xander was asking, after all. Spike didnt blame him for wanting to know how matters stood before he committed himself any more firmly to Spike.
Funny, innit? Spike mused. Leng Chi said something like that, didnt he? About Xander trusting me with himself, but not with others? And what else? That bit about shackles and hard choices.
Xander was still staring at Spike fearfully, and suddenly Spike recognized that look. Xander was waiting to be hurt.
And it was that thought that made Spikes decision for him.
Ever see the movie Pinocchio, luv? he said softly.
Xander nodded, looking startled at the change in subject.
Remember Jiminy Cricket? Spike said. Pinocchios conscience. Think youd fancy a job like that?
Huh? Xander said, blinking confusedly.
Well, suppose I could get rid of this chip, Spike said. Suppose I agreed to let you be my conscience. I wouldnt kill no humans even Buffy without your permission. Except to defend myself, or you, lets say, he added. Then he frowned. Two exceptions, though. Those Initiative gits I ever see any of em again, theyre mine. And your parents. Someday, somehow, theyre mine too. Dont mind waiting times something Ive got lots of. But someday theyre gonna pay, and Im gonna collect, with interest.
Xanders eyes were suddenly suspiciously shiny, and his voice was a little unsteady.
You mean youd give up on your revenge against Buffy, he said softly, but not against my parents?
Hell, Pet, of course, Spike said indignantly. Buffy, now, shes the Slayer, eh? Shes supposed to want me dead, and failing that, to make my life miserable, and vice versa, right? Just the natural order. Dont hold it against her, excepting that shes such a bloody bitch about it. Pisses me off when she badmouths you, though. And I didnt say Id give up on revenge, he added, grinning. Just that I wouldnt kill her, see.
Then he shook his head.
But your folks no excuse for them. Even the Vorgosts in the park, theyre just being Vorgosts, see? Your parents, though, theyre more evil than most evil Ive seen. That one I wont give up, not even for you. Cause if youre my Consort, well, then, they hurt my Consort, and damn if Ill let that pass.
Xander blinked and wiped his eyes.
I should want you to, he said softly. I should want you to let them live. I should hate the thought of you killing them. I guess Im not quite as much one of the good guys as I should be, huh? He swallowed. But youll wait? Youll wait, and be careful, and when if you ever did it, youd be sure that, well, it wouldnt be something that would make the gang have to come after you, right?
Spike smiled and reached up to comb his fingers through Xanders soft dark hair, still damp with passion sweat.
Promise, Pet, he said simply. Youve got the word of William Barstow, or William the Bloody, or Spike, or all of the above. If I ever manage to get rid of the fucking chip, youll have it your way. Feel better now?
Xander sighed, letting his forehead drop to Spikes chest, all the tension flowing out of his muscles as if he was truly relaxing for the first time in a long, long time.
Not yet, he murmured. But I think I will.
Spike grinned, ruffling Xanders hair.
Better get some sleep, he advised. Youve got to be up for work in about five hours, and then weve got the drive to LA.
Yeah. Xander raised his head slightly and smiled at Spike. Um . . . do you think you could say it? Just once, tonight? Id really, really like to hear it right now. Please?
Spike sighed and rolled his eyes.
Do I have to, Pet? he grumbled.
Please? Xander repeated, gazing at Spike with those melting puppy-dog eyes. Spike groaned, helpless before the assault.
All right, all right, turn off the bloody eyes, will you? Spike growled. I love you, whelp, all right? Happy now?
Happy now, Xander smiled. Love you too, Blondie.
Spike growled again and whapped Xander carefully on the back of the head, but when Xander turned out the light and rolled over on his side, pulling Spikes arm around his waist, when Spike decided that dozing next to his lover was preferable to getting up and watching old movies or pounding the shit out of something in the graveyard even though it was right in the middle of his day Spike knew that he wasnt the only one wearing a silly, sappy grin in the darkness.